Cultural differences in speed adaptation in human-robot interaction tasks

Fabio Vannucci 1 , Alessandra Sciutti 2 , Hagen Lehman 3 , Giulio Sandini 4 , Yukie Nagai 5 ,  and Francesco Rea 6
  • 1 DIBRIS, Università di Genova, Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, , Italy
  • 2 COgNiTive Architecture for Collaborative Technologies, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy
  • 3 Università degli Studi di Macerata, , Italy
  • 4 Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, , Italy
  • 5 International Research Center for Neurointelligence, The University of Tokyo, Japan
  • 6 Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, , Italy


In social interactions, human movement is a rich source of information for all those who take part in the collaboration. In fact, a variety of intuitive messages are communicated through motion and continuously inform the partners about the future unfolding of the actions. A similar exchange of implicit information could support movement coordination in the context of Human-Robot Interaction. In this work, we investigate how implicit signaling in an interaction with a humanoid robot can lead to emergent coordination in the form of automatic speed adaptation. In particular, we assess whether different cultures – specifically Japanese and Italian – have a different impact on motor resonance and synchronization in HRI. Japanese people show a higher general acceptance toward robots when compared with Western cultures. Since acceptance, or better affiliation, is tightly connected to imitation and mimicry, we hypothesize a higher degree of speed imitation for Japanese participants when compared to Italians. In the experimental studies undertaken both in Japan and Italy, we observe that cultural differences do not impact on the natural predisposition of subjects to adapt to the robot.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • [1] SoftBank Robotics, NAO [Online], Available:

  • [2] SoftBank Robotics, Pepper [Online], Available:

  • [3] D. Mondou, A. Prigent, A. Revel, A dynamic scenario by remote supervision: a serious game in the museum with a Nao robot, In: Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE2017), London, UK, 2017, 103–116

  • [4] M. Niemelä, A. Arvola, I. Aaltonen, Monitoring the acceptance of a social service robot in a shopping mall: first results, In: Proceedings of the Companion of the 2017 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI ’17), 2017, 225–226

  • [5] A. Sciutti, M. Mara, V. Tagliasco, G. Sandini, Humanizing human-robot interaction: On the importance of mutual understanding, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 2018, 37(1), 22–29

  • [6] R. Blake, M. Shiffrar, Perception of human motion, Annual Review of Psychology, 2007, 58, 47–73

  • [7] G. Sandini, A. Sciutti, F. Rea, Movement-based communication for humanoid-human interaction, In: A. Goswami, P. Vadakkepat (Eds.), Humanoid Robotics: A Reference, Springer, Dordrecht, 2018, 2169–2197

  • [8] A. Bisio et al., Motor contagion during human-human and human-robot interaction, PLoS One, 2014, 9(8)

  • [9] H. Lehmann, Y. Nagai, G. Metta, The Question of Cultural Sensitive Gesture Libraries in HRI - An Italian - Japanese Comparison, In: Proceedings of the ICDL-EpiRob 2016 – Workshop on Vision and the Development of Social Cognition, 2016

  • [10] S. Martinez-Conde, S. L. Macknik, D. H. Hubel, The role of fixational eye movements in visual perception, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2004, 5, 229–240

  • [11] H. Lehmann, I. Keller, R. Ahmadzadeh, F. Broz, Naturalistic Conversational Gaze Control for Humanoid Robots – A First Step, Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics), 2017

  • [12] M. Argyle, J. Dean, Eye-Contact, Distance and aflliation, Sociometry, 1965, 28(3), 289–304

  • [13] A. Bisio, N. Stucchi, M. Jacono, L. Fadiga, T. Pozzo, Automatic versus voluntary motor imitation: Effect of visual context and stimulus velocity, PLoS One, 2010, 5(10), e13506

  • [14] C. Bartneck, T. Nomura, T. Kanda, T. Suzuki, K. Kato, Cultural differences in attitudes towards robots, In: Proceedings of the AISB Symposium on Robot Companions, Hard Problems and Open Challenges in Human-Robot Interaction, Hatfield, 2005, 1–4

  • [15] D. Li, P. P. Rau, Y. Li, A cross-cultural study: Effect of robot appearance and task, International Journal of Social Robotics, 2010, 2(2), 175–186

  • [16] S. Šabanović, C. C. Bennett, H. R. Lee, Towards culturally robust robots: A critical social perspective on robotics and culture, In: Proceedings of HRI Workshop on Culture-Aware Robotics, Bielefeld, 2014

  • [17] F. Kaplan, Who is afraid of the humanoid? Investigating cultural differences in the acceptance of robots, International Journal of Humanoid Robotics, 2004, 1(03), 465–480

  • [18] G. Knoblich, S. Butterfill, N. Sebanz, Psychological research on joint action: theory and data, Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Academic Press, 2011, 54, 59–101

  • [19] G. Rizzolatti, L. Craighero, The mirror-neuron system, Annual Review of Neuroscience, 2004, 27(1), 169–192

  • [20] L. Craighero, G. Metta, G. Sandini, L. Fadiga, The mirror-neurons system: data and models, Progress in Brain Research, 2007, 164, 39–59

  • [21] Y. Kanakogi, S. Itakura, Developmental correspondence between action prediction and motor ability in early infancy, Nature Communications, 2011, 2, 341

  • [22] T. Falck-Ytter, G. Gredebäck, C. von Hofsten, Infants predict other people’s action goals, Nature Neuroscience, 2006, 9(7), 878–879

  • [23] M. Bove, A. Tacchino, E. Pelosin, C. Moisello, G. Abbruzzese, M. F. Ghilardi, Spontaneous movement tempo is influenced by observation of rhythmical actions, Brain Research Bulletin, 2009, 80(3), 122–127

  • [24] L. Noy, E. Dekel, U. Alon, The mirror game as a paradigm for studying the dynamics of two people improvising motion together, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011, 108(52), 20947–20952

  • [25] A. Sciutti, A. Bisio, F. Nori, G. Metta, L. Fadiga, T. Pozzo, G. Sandini, Measuring human-robot interaction through motor resonance, International Journal of Social Robotics, 2012, 4(3), 223–234

  • [26] S. Kashi, S. Levy-Tzedek, Smooth leader or sharp follower? Playing the mirror game with a robot, Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 2018, 36(2), 147–159

  • [27] A. Sciutti, G. Sandini, Interacting with robots to investigate the bases of social interaction,IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 2017, 25(12), 2295–2304

  • [28] L. Amoruso, C. Urgesi, Contextual modulation of motor resonance during the observation of everyday actions, Neuroimage, 2016, 134, 74–84

  • [29] L. Amoruso, A. Finisguerra, C. Urgesi, Tracking the time course of top-down contextual effects on motor responses during action comprehension, Journal of Neuroscience, 2016, 36(46), 11590–11600

  • [30] B. Rauchbauer, J. Majdandžić, A. Hummer, C. Windischberger, C. Lamm, Distinct neural processes are engaged in the modulation of mimicry by social group-membership and emotional expressions, Cortex, 2015, 70, 49–67

  • [31] P. Molenberghs, V. Halász, J. B. Mattingley, E. J. Vanman, R. Cunnington, Seeing is believing: Neural mechanisms of action-perception are biased by team membership, Human Brain Mapping, 2013, 34(9), 2055–2068

  • [32] T. L. Chartrand, J. L. Lakin, The antecedents and consequences of human behavioral mimicry, Annual Review of Psychology, 2013, 64, 285–308

  • [33] M. Baldassarre, S. Feller, Cultural variations in personal space: theory, methods, and evidence, Ethos, 1975, 3(4), 481–503

  • [34] G. Metta, L. Natale, F. Nori, G. Sandini, The iCub project: An open source platform for research in embodied cognition, In: Proceedings of IEEE Workshop on Advanced Robotics and its Social Impacts, ARSO, 2011, 24–26

  • [35] P. Viviani, T. Flash, Minimum-jerk, two-thirds power law, and isochrony: converging approaches to movement planning, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1995, 21(1), 32–53

  • [36] G. Catavitello, Y. P. Ivanenko, F. Lacquaniti, P. Viviani, Drawing ellipses in water: evidence for dynamic constraints in the relation between velocity and path curvature, Experimental Brain Research, 2016, 234(6), 1649–1657

  • [37] N. Noceti, F. Rea, A. Sciutti, F. Odone, G. Sandini, View-invariant robot adaptation to human action timing, In: Proceedings of SAI Intelligent Systems Conference, Springer, Cham, 2018, 804–821

  • [38] U. Pattacini, F. Nori, L. Natale, G. Metta, G. Sandini, An experimental evaluation of a novel minimum-jerk Cartesian controller for humanoid robots, In: Proceedings of IEEE/RSJ 2010 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IROS, 2010, 1668–1674

  • [39] T. Chaminade, D. W. Franklin, E. Oztop, G. Cheng, Motor interference between humans and humanoid robots: Effect of biological and artificial motion, In: Proceedings of 2005 4th IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning, 2005, 96101

  • [40] G. Metta, P. Fitzpatrick, L. Natale, YARP – Yet Another Robot Platform, version 2.3.20, International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems, 2006, 3(1), 8

  • [41] ICubForwardKinematics, 2014,

  • [42] D. Eizicovits, Y. Edan, I. Tabak, S. Levy-Tzedek, Robotic gaming prototype for upper limb exercise: Effects of age and embodiment on user preferences and movement, Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 2018, 36(2), 261–274

  • [43] A. Cherubini, R. Passama, A. Meline, A. Crosnier, P. Fraisse, Multimodal control for human-robot cooperation, In: Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2013, 2202–2207

  • [44] B. Nemec, N. Likar, A. Gams, A. Ude, Bimanual human robot cooperation with adaptive stiffness control, In: Proceedings of IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2016, 607–613


Journal + Issues

Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics is a fully peer-reviewed, open access journal that publishes original, high-quality research works and review articles on topics broadly related to neuronally and psychologically inspired robots and other behaving autonomous systems. The journal is indexed in SCOPUS.